Proposition 4

Teachers think systematically about their practices and learn from experience.

As with most professions, teaching requires practitioners to remain open, eager for, and dedicated to the pursuit of continuous growth. Because they work in a field marked by evolving questions and an expanding body of research, teachers possess a professional obligation to become perpetual students of their craft. Accomplished educators seek to expand their repertoires, deepen their knowledge and skills, and become wiser in rendering judgments. They remain inventive in their teaching, recognizing the need to welcome new findings and extend their learning as professionals. Accomplished teachers are ready to incorporate ideas and methods developed by other educators to support their instructional goals—namely, the advancement of student learning and the improvement of their practice. What exemplifies excellence, then, is a reverence for the craft, a recognition of its complexities, and a commitment to lifelong learning and reflection.

Teachers Make Difficult Choices That Test Their Professional Judgment

An enthusiasm for, and dedication to, continued professional development distinguishes accomplished teachers and exemplifies the critical disposition they nurture in their students.

Often, the demands of teaching present formidable challenges that defy simple solutions. To meet conflicting objectives, accomplished teachers regularly fashion compromises that will satisfy diverse parties. For example, a world history teacher attempting to reconcile the need for broad coverage and in-depth knowledge will do what is necessary to proceed from ancient civilizations to modern nations, while developing student understanding of history as a gradual evolution rather than a discrete series of chronological events. Likewise, a middle childhood generalist will find a way to teach students the fundamental principles of spelling and grammar, while introducing them to an appreciation of writing as a mode of communication and a thinking process. Accomplished teachers may approach circumstances such as those in different ways, but they all demonstrate the strength and flexibility to negotiate competing goals.

Teachers also may face situations that cause them to reprioritize their goals based on reflection, resulting in the modification of their instructional plans. For example, a teacher may delay part of a daily lesson to foster classroom relationships. Another instructor may address student misunderstandings by reteaching a critical concept instead of moving forward. Circumstances such as those call on teachers to employ their professional knowledge of what constitutes sound practice, giving students’ interest the paramount consideration. Accomplished teachers may forge a variety of successful plans to balance rival objectives, but their decisions invariably will be grounded in established theories and reasoned judgment born of experience.

Teachers Use Feedback and Research to Improve Their Practice and Positively Impact Student Learning

Accomplished teachers seek opportunities to cultivate their learning. As savvy students of their own teaching, they know the value of asking colleagues, administrators, and other educators to observe them and offer critiques of their instructional practices. They write about their work as well, and they solicit reactions to their teaching from students and families. Accomplished teachers develop strategies for gaining feedback and insights from a range of stakeholders so they can reflect meaningfully on their pedagogical choices and improve their practice.

nbpts-057-croppedAccomplished teachers also stay abreast of current research and, when appropriate, incorporate new findings into their practice. They take advantage of professional development opportunities such as conferences, workshops, and digital learning experiences. Because testing new approaches and hypotheses is a commonplace habit among such teachers, they might conduct, publish, and present their own research, if so inclined. Accomplished educators understand the legitimacy and the limitations of the diverse sources they employ to inform their teaching, and they use those sources judiciously to enrich their practice.

An enthusiasm for, and dedication to, continued professional development distinguishes accomplished teachers and exemplifies the critical disposition they nurture in their students. The thinking, reasoning, and learning that characterize first-rate teaching are thus valuable twice over: not only are thoughtful teachers able to instruct their students more efficiently and effectively, they also serve as powerful models for the analytical mindset they strive to develop in children and young adults. Teachers who are exemplars of careful, logical deliberation—considering purposes, marshaling evidence, and balancing outcomes—are more likely to communicate the importance of critical thinking to their students and demonstrate how it is accomplished. Those teachers model other crucial traits, as well, such as a commitment to creativity in their work or the willingness to take risks when exploring new intellectual, emotional, physical, and artistic realms.

Accomplished teachers therefore serve as paradigms of lifelong learning and achievement. Character and competence contribute equally to their educative manner. Such teachers embody the virtues they impart to their students: curiosity and a love of learning, tolerance and open-mindedness, fairness and justice, an appreciation for our cultural and intellectual heritages, and respect for human diversity and dignity. Moreover, they epitomize the intellectual capacities they foster: the ability to reason carefully, consider multiple perspectives, question received wisdom, adopt an inquiry-based approach, solve problems, and persevere. In all aspects of their action and demeanor, accomplished teachers convey the significance of reflection and learning, of pursuit and achievement.